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Italy’s finest

I had the privilege to attend an exclusive lunch where the theme was as you will read below Italy’s grandest Grand Cru wines. It was more of a Gaja themed line-up of wines completed with some of the most famous and cult like Super Tuscan’s.

All Gaja’s reds from Piedmont region are high priced wines of considerable force and character. Out of their portfolio, 3 wines stand aside even more as they are produced only from 3 separate single vineyards, all being made of 94-95% Nebbiolo with a small touch of Barberba d’Alba that gives them a higher complexity, but on the same time forbids them to carry the Barolo DOCG appellation. These 3 single Cru wines are the highest expression of Gaja’s know how and Nebbiolo’s interpretation coming from this top producer. They also give life to 3 different expressions of terroir diversity that make wine such an interesting beverage.

The red wines line up started with an older mature wine that today at 25 years old is singing, while the rest were very young (2006), powerful and not overly expressive in comparison. As a conclusion these wines need at least 15 years of bottle age to start to open up.

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We started with a Champagne Jacquesson Cuvee no 737 made of 70% wines from the 2009 vintage the rest older wines, from Premier and Grand Cru vines from Grande Vallee de la Marne and Cotes des Blancs. It is maturated sur lies in big oak barrels. It is 43% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier, disgorged in November 2013. Color is medium gold with intense mousse. Initially very citrus like fruit, fresh dough and biscuit with a razor sharp palate, but after 30-45 minutes it gets softer with complex aromas of caramel, milk and pear, with a rounder and softer palate. Medium finish. (91/100)

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Gaja Sori Tildin 1990

Ruby red with brick light rim. Pure fresh cedar and mint nose. Extremely expressive. Also black currant buds.
Deep nose, ethereal, rich red fruit, cherries, smoke, game, dry rose petals, balsamic as it aerates. Mineral tones refresh the nose. Rich palate and such a silky smooth mouth feel, lots of red fruits and spices, tar. Very long finish with lingering aftertaste that comes back over and over . Plenty of life ahead, the amplitude of fruit is unbelievable. Very Burgundian like character. 96/100
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 Gaja Sori Tildin 2006
 Deep dark red color. This seems more closed both on the nose and the palate, very tight actually, red fruits, raspberry, cherry, roses, tar, Asian spices. A warm nose. Fresh cedar. Tight palate, assertive and high tannins, ‎youthful, rich legs on the glass, a fat and heady wine, aromas of red cherry, spices, very powerful, lots of structure. Very unforgiving in its youth. ‎Long finish, assertive tannins. 94/100
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Gaja Costa Russi 2006
Deep ruby red. Lots of strawberries and raspberries. Spices. Warm nose. Balsamic, a bit ripe. Warm palate. Kind of angular in the mouth and quite unsatisfying for the price. 91-92/100
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Gaja San Lorenzo 2006
Deep red almost opaque. Very deep nose, lost of fruit, more black fruit than red, blackcurrant, spices. Very concentrated, lush texture, lots of grainy tannins, plenty of sour cherries, plums, very youthful, toasty and tobacco. It is more international and comes along as a modern Barolo. Long finish. A very powerful wine with a mountain of tannins that needs plenty of time to get soft but it does have a certain weightless feeling in the mouth that makes it even more appealing. Real potential here. (95/100)
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There was also a 1974 Castello di Neive Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano that was cloudy in the glass and unfortunately completely dead.
There were not just any Super Tuscan’s that followed, we are talking about the most sought after investment wines from Italy: Masseto and Sassicaia.
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2009 was a warmer vintage so Sassicaia is a bit different than the regular style. There is a riper and more ample fruit both on the nose and palate, with softer tannins and richly textured. Plenty of black fruits, spices, charcoal and leather. Velvety tannins, lingering sweet black berry fruit, spices and a spicy paprika touch. Long finish. (93-94/100)
Today 2009 Sassicaia comes along more as the poor relative of the noble family consisting of this famous wines from Gaja.
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Masseto 2008
Leaving the crazy price aside, Masseto is a wine with its own category. 2008 Masseto has a very dark and opaque red garnet color. Deep and profound nose, very complex and constantly evolving in the glass. There is ripe and sweet black fruit, but there is freshness with cedar and pine needles. Very rich on the palate, dense and concentrated texture, but it has acidity and refreshing velvety tannins that create an amazing balance. Very long and complex wine. The 15.5% alc is just a number here. (97-98/100)
Crazy line up of wines for a regular weekday lunch.

Wine-dinner nr 5 – Italian wines (the story)

April 12, 2013 Leave a comment

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On April 3rd, 2013 I organized the “Tignanello & Friends” wine dinner with Nicusor. This was quite a line-up as we aimed at including 2 mini verticals of famous wines: Antinori’s Tignanello and Masi’s Serego Alighieri. I uncorked the wines around 18:00 and, luckily, there were no unpleasant surprises with the bottles.

We had two whites, both from Antinori: 2010 Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala Conte della Vipera and 2009 Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala ‘Cervaro della Sala’ both from Umbria.

2010 Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala Conte della Vipera is 90-95% Sauv Blanc and 5-10% Semillon, fermented and vinified in stainless steel tanks. It started to be produced in 1997 for the first time. The wine has delicate herbal and mineral aromas, but lacks substance on the palate. (86/100)

It took almost 2-3 hours for 2009 Marchesi Antinori Castello della Sala ‘Cervaro della Sala’ to open up and show its complete aromatic profile. A blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Grechetto, fermented and vinified in oak barrels, then aged for about 8-10 months in the same small oak barrels. Initially it boasts intense aromas of truffles, but after a few hours (and even the next day) the nose shows elegant aromas of toast, butter, walnuts and honey. It is full, round and unctuous on the palate, while the medium(+) finish leaves notes of tropical fruits and walnuts. This was actually better on the second day. (88-89/100)

The purpose of this tasting was to see wines from the most renowned Italian regions and to observe the subtle differences between different vintages for well renowned wines: Tignanello in three vintages – 2004, 2005 and 2008 – and Masi Serego Alligheri 2003 and 2005.

From Piedmont we had wines from Luciano Sandrone and Antinori’s winery – Prunotto. Luciano Sandrone started to make wine in 1978 in his parents garage. His 1978 Barolo produced in a tiny quantity – just 1500 bottles – was purchased entirely by an American wine merchant during 1982 Vinitaly’s fair. Since then the property grew and now consists of 27 ha of vines (75% owned) located in the famous Cannubi Cru and other parts of Barolo. His reputation saw an exponential ascension when his 1989 and 1990 minute quantities Barolo’s received 97/100 and 100/100 points from Robert Parker. He produces Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo d’Alba, and two Barolo’s, employing traditional vinification methods and modern technology.

I chose to serve first the 2004 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore and not his Barbera d’Alba because I felt there is more concentration in Barbera than in the Burgundian character of his Nebbiolo. 2004 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore is a well developed and maturing wine that develops gradually in the glass, showing discreet notes of violets, tobacco, herbs and dry red cherry. Integrated tannins that discreetly mark their presence underneath the wild cherry and spice layers. Medium(+) finish, with hints of drying tannins and sweet red cherry jams. The producer recommended drinking it between 2007-2012, but this is an understatement as the wine has plenty of life left. (91/100)

2005 Luciano Sandrone Barbera d’Alba has a deeper garnet color, a fully developed and intense nose, that was found to be more appealing by the participants. This is probably because 2005 was a cooler year and the wines were recommended for an earlier consumption. There are beautiful aromas of truffles, black cherry and coconut, while the palate is rich and expressive. It feels the wine is more concentrated and modern, while the tannins are fully integrated. The finish is medium long, and leaves juicy red cherry fruit flavors. Another wine that exceeded its life span and can last many more years. This was a big surprise for most participants to see how well this 8 years old Barbera showed. (90/100)

Prunotto is Antinori’s adventure in Barolo. Antinori started to distribute Prunotto’s wines in 1989, and in 1994 they got involved in the vinification process. In 1990 Albiera Antinori bought vines in Agliano (Barbera), Bussia (Barolo) and Calliano (for the study of Albarossa and Syrah). In 1996 they extended the property with 5 ha in Barbaresco (Bric Turot) and 5 ha in Treviso (Muscat). 2008 Prunotto Barolo Antinori is a fairly young Barolo and restrained in aromas. Tar, roses and dried red cherry fruit can be discreetly felt on the nose, while the tannins are smooth considering its age. (88-89/100)

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The big moment expected by all the participants finally arrived. All three bottles of Tignanello were uncorked and left to breathe (just like the rest of the wines) in the bottle. We tasted simultaneously all three vintages: 2004, 2005 and 2008, looking to observe their subtle differences.

Tignanello was produced in 1970 for the first time, being the first Sangiovese wine in Tuscany blended with Cabernet. Since 1982 the blend remained unchanged: 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.

2005 was from the beginning the most expressive and open wine of the three. 2005 Antinori Tignanello is fully developed and intense, surprising the nose with complex and subtle aromas of cedar, peppercorn, leather, dark chocolate and sweet cassis. This is today a beautiful wine, with integrated and soft tannins, rich and well defined flavors of juicy dark cherry and chocolate on the palate, savoury and finishing long and intense. Wine of the night for many. This had the closest profile of the three to a Bordeaux. (93/100)

2004 Antinori Tignanello  was closed in the first 2-3 hours. It only started to open up and become expressive after 4 hours and what a fantastic wine it turned out to be. It has a warm and sunny aromatic profile that you meet in all great Tuscan wines. Well developed, complex and youthful on the nose, it combines intense primary aromas of black cherry, cassis and plums, with secondary and tertiary aromas of toast, leather and game. Still tight on the palate, but very ripe and silky tannins, smooth and soft texture, complex layers of flavors and very elegant. Long finish, showing juicy black cherry and chocolate flavors. This at the beginning of a long life, just starting to open up, but already offering great pleasure. It was the wine of the night for me. (94/100)

Compared to its younger brothers, 2008 Antinori Tignanello is an extremely youthful, intense and modern wine. For me this wine lacks the pleasure offered by 2004 and 2005 at the moment however, there are plenty of details that point to the bright future this wine will have in a few years. It does posses the structure, the smoothness and the rich layers of flavors typical to a successful Tignanello, but it feels totally closed today. (92/100)

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After such great wines, the two Amarone’s faced a great challenge in front of the participants. I was pleasantly surprised by the balance that both 2003 and 2005 Masi Amarone Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron showed. The differences between the two are so subtle and yet so distinctive. 2003 seems to have more nerve and a richer texture, while 2005 seems to march more on freshness and balance. Both wines show sweet and soft tannins, smooth and velvety structure, while the palate is washed with a mix of dry black berry, black cherry and figs, licorice and hints of minerals. Long finish, elegant wines that really please. 2003 (91-92/100) and 2005 (91/100).

My top in a descending order: 2004 Tignanello, 2005 Tignanello, 2003 Masi Amarone Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron, 2004 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore.

You can watch the video presentation of this tasting in Romanian here: https://fromgrapestowine.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/video-wine-dinner-nr-5-vinuri-italiene-martie-28-2013/

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